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Aja Naomi King
Aja Naomi King - DSC 0089.jpg
King in December 2014
Born (1985-01-11) January 11, 1985 (age 38)
Education University of California, Santa Barbara (BFA)
Yale University (MFA)
Occupation Actress
Years active 2008–present
Children 1

Aja Naomi King (/ˈə/; born January 11, 1985) is an American actress best known for her role as Michaela Pratt in How to Get Away with Murder. She began her career in guest-starring roles on television, and starred as Cassandra Kopelson in The CW medical comedy-drama Emily Owens, M.D.

In 2014, King began starring as Michaela Pratt in the ABC legal drama series How to Get Away with Murder, for which she received an NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Drama Series nomination in 2015. She also has starred in the films Four (2012) and Reversion (2015). In 2016, she portrayed Cherry Turner in the historical film The Birth of a Nation (2016) and the following year appeared in the comedy-drama The Upside (2017).

Early life

King was born in Los Angeles and grew up in Walnut, California. She received a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Acting from the University of California, Santa Barbara, and a Master of Fine Arts from Yale University's School of Drama in 2010. At Yale University, King performed in a number of productions, including A Midsummer Night's Dream, Little Shop of Horrors, and Angels in America: A Gay Fantasia on National Themes.

Career

2010–2013

King appeared in several short films in the early period of her career. She made her television debut in 2010, as a guest star in the CBS police procedural Blue Bloods, and later appeared on Person of Interest, The Blacklist, and Deadbeat. She made her feature film debut in the 2011 independent film Damsels in Distress, as a minor character. Her big break came in 2012, when she was cast as new surgical intern Cassandra Kopelson and the series' primary antagonist, on the CW medical comedy-drama series Emily Owens, M.D. The series was canceled after a single season in 2013. She later starred in the Amazon Studios comedy pilot The Onion Presents: The News.

In 2013, King co-starred in two independent films. She played Abigayle, the daughter of Wendell Pierce's character, in the independent drama Four, released on September 13, 2013. Along with her castmates, she won a Los Angeles Film Festival Award for Best Performance by Cast for her role in this movie. She also appeared alongside Laverne Cox and Britne Oldford in the film 36 Saints. In 2014, she had supporting role in the romantic comedy The Rewrite, starring Hugh Grant and Marisa Tomei. The film was shot in 2013 but was released theatrically in the United States in 2015.

2014–present: Breakthrough

Aja Naomi King 2014 (cropped)
King in August 2014

In early 2014, King had a recurring role as Ali Henslee in the ABC medical drama series Black Box, starring Kelly Reilly. The series was canceled after a single season. In February 2014, she was cast as one of the main characters in the ABC legal thriller How to Get Away with Murder, produced by Shonda Rhimes. The series stars Viola Davis as a law professor Annalise Keating. King plays the role of Michaela Pratt, one of the five lead students, alongside Alfred Enoch, Jack Falahee, Matt McGorry, and Karla Souza. The series premiered on September 25, 2014 with generally positive reviews from critics, and 14 million viewers. King received her first NAACP Image Award nomination for her performance in series.

In 2015, King had her first the leading role in the science-fiction thriller Reversion. The film had limited theatrical release on October 9, 2015. Also in 2015, she was cast as the female lead in the historical drama film The Birth of a Nation, based on the story of the 1831 slave rebellion led by Nat Turner. The film also stars Nate Parker, Aunjanue Ellis, Gabrielle Union, and Armie Hammer. She played Nat Turner's wife, Cherry. The film premiered in competition at the 2016 Sundance Film Festival on January 25, 2016, and received positive reviews from critics. King's performance was also well received. Variety placed her in their list of one of the "Biggest Breakthrough Performances" at Sundance, writing that "King transforms herself from contemporary glamour girl to 19th-century slave in Nate Parker's festival smash. A harrowing scene late in the film opposite Parker as Nat Turner reveals a depth and range King has never been asked to deliver in her small screen work, and a potential new star is born." King has also been shortlisted as a possible contender for the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress but did not receive a nomination. She received a NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Motion Picture nomination for her role. She received the "Rising Star Award" at the 10th annual Essence Black Women In Hollywood event in February 2017.

In 2017, King appeared opposite Kevin Hart, Bryan Cranston, and Nicole Kidman in The Upside, a remake of the 2011 French film The Intouchables. Later that year, she was cast in the leading role of Somali activist Ifrah Ahmed in the biopic A Girl from Mogadishu. In 2020, she appeared in the drama film Sylvie's Love, opposite Tessa Thompson and Nnamdi Asomugha. King later played a female leading role in the historical drama film The 24th about Houston riot of 1917 directed by Kevin Willmott. King will next star opposite Michael Shannon in Shriver. She also starred opposite Nnamdi Asomugha in his feature directorial debut, The Knife.

Personal life

In March 2021, she announced that she was pregnant after previously experiencing two miscarriages. On June 6, 2021, she announced that she had given birth to a son, Kian, with husband Dan King.

Public image

King was the face of skincare line Olay's fall 2015 advertising campaign. She became a spokesperson for L'Oreal Paris in 2017. King has graced the covers of numerous magazines, including Vanity Fair, Elle, Marie Claire, Nylon, Glamour, Essence, Entertainment Weekly and Shape.

Filmography

Film

Year Title Role Notes
2008 Gloria Mundi Dancer Short
2010 A Basketball Jones Sara Walker Short
Eve Celebrity Short
2011 Damsels in Distress Positive Polly
2012 Four Abigayle
Love Synchs Selene Short
2013 Onion News Empire Jillian TV Movie
36 Saints Joan
2014 The Rewrite Rosa Tejeda
2015 Reversion Sophie Clé
2016 The Birth of a Nation Cherry Turner
2017 The Upside Latrice
2019 A Girl from Mogadishu Ifrah Ahmed
2020 Sylvie's Love Mona
The 24th Marie
2021 Boxing Day Lisa
TBA Shriver
TBA The Knife

Television

Year Title Role Notes
2010 Blue Bloods Denise Episode: "Samaritan"
2012 Person of Interest Lisa Episode: "Wolf and Cub"
2012–13 Emily Owens, M.D. Cassandra Kopelson Main Cast
2013 The Blacklist Elysa Ruben Episode: "Frederick Barnes (No. 47)"
2014 Deadbeat N'Cole Episode: "Out-Of-Body Issues"
Black Box Ali Henslee Recurring Cast
2014–20 How to Get Away with Murder Michaela Pratt Main Cast
2015 BoJack Horseman BoJack's Date (voice) Episode: "Yesterdayland"
2018 Scandal Michaela Pratt Episode: "Allow Me to Reintroduce Myself"
2019 A Black Lady Sketch Show Recluse Episode:"Your Boss Knows You Don't Have Eyebrows"
2021 Blackout Wren Foster (voice) Main Cast: Season 2
2023 Lessons in Chemistry Harriet Slone Upcoming series

Awards and nominations

Year Award Category Work Result
2013 Los Angeles Film Festival Los Angeles Film Festival Award for Best Performance by an Ensemble Four Won
2015 NAACP Image Awards NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Drama Series How to Get Away with Murder Nominated
2017 NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Motion Picture The Birth of a Nation Nominated
Black Reel Awards Black Reel Award for Outstanding Breakthrough Performance, Female Nominated

See also

Kids robot.svg In Spanish: Aja Naomi King para niños

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